SCOOP , MY FIRST novel, almost wasn’t. Even though it was a Mystery Guild pick of the month and went on to become a bestseller, the manuscript almost wasn’t published. Even though it won every award for which it was nominated and every writing competition in which it was entered, editors were baffled on “where to shelve it.” I got lovely telephone calls from top editors caroling on about how my book was “laugh out loud funny,” and “I love, love, love these characters” and one “I loved it so much I read it aloud to my boyfriend in the bathtub . . . “
Okay, thanks, but it’s going to take a bucket of Fresh Scent Clorox and a good scrub brush to get that out of my brain.
The problem was, “What is it? How do we sell it? It’s a funny mystery and there’s romance in and *gasp* S-E-X? How do we sell it?”
Oh, I don’t know, where do they shelve Janet Evanovich, who I get compared to all the time?
The answer to the problem of how to sell you is, you have to know how to sell yourself BEFORE you meet with your agent and editor. Know your book, know your brand (You) and know your audience, and you’ll be that much closer to you goal of being a published author.
The first time I met face-to-face with an agent, I came armed with index cards and hopped up on antihistamines, my insides shaking like a bowl of runny grits, feeling like my whole career–my whole life–hung precariously in the balance.
Happily, I’d followed the advice of uber-talented fellow author Julie Orolon, who’d just dug that same trench, and sent a letter of introduction ahead of time so most of my job was already done.
But even if you didn’t get your introductory letter out ahead of time, DON’T PANIC.
Ask yourself, Who am I and Why am I interesting?
Some days, writing from home, living on a ranch in the middle of nowhere–finding lost calves and coaxing mean kitties out of the barn is about as interesting as it gets . . .
It was easier when I lived in the city, where I worked at a major newspaper, had friends in the FBI, hung out with SWAT guys and was involved in Search and Rescue.
Now I spend my days keeping books on the ranch, weighing and keeping track of cattle, mucking cow poo for fertilizer and shooing deer out of the kitchen garden. Which I suppose is a different kind of interesting.
But I still know what my books are about and what makes them interesting.
When you know who you are and what is interesting about you, and what your book is about and who will be reading it, it makes it easier to get an agent, an editor, and
believe it or not, it also frees you up when you’re writing–it gives you a framework to help build your book.
Knowing your book and how editors will present it to the marketing department, and how marketing will present it to readers are key, and here are a few questions to add to your Marketing Plan:
What are comparable titles to your book?
What do you believe distinguishes your book from comparable titles?
Develop some advertising blurbs. You are the author; you know the book better than anyone else. How will the book be sold? What will motivate people to buy it?
Develop some “sales pitches,” one-sentence blurbs that will make people want to know more–Some of mine were:
- SCOOP is a mystery about the three kinds of men in your life: The ones you play with, the ones you stay with, and the ones who just need killin’
- SCOOP is the sassy, sexy story of an obituary writer’s life, love and the occasional dead body
- SCOOP is the story of an obituary writer who finds herself up to her eyelashes in dead bodies and surrounded by more hot guys than she can shake a stick at.
Describe the audience, including age group, to whom this book is directed, and why you believe this audience will be responsive to your book, and, more importantly, buy the darn thing that you have slaved for, bled over and given up all hopes of ever having sex again . . . okay, I made that last one up for dramatic license.
Other than through bookstores, how do you believe this audience can best be reached?
List any previously published works, sequentially, with title, publisher, year.
List any works that are forthcoming, with title, publisher, and anticipated publication year.
List any books you are now working on or planning, and have a short, TV Guide version ready to go.
My blurb for DEAD COPY, the second book in the Cauley series:
FBI Special Agent Tom Logan is back in town, and he’s got a proposition for obituary writer Cauley MacKinnon. He needs somebody dead. And who better to help fake the death of a weasel-y informant than Cauley, aka the Obituary Babe? But things go awry when the snitch is gunned down on the way to the courthouse, his sister is nabbed by a mysterious cloaked figure and soon Cauley is up to her eyelashes in dead bodies, and on the hunt for the missing sister with her search and rescue dog, Marlowe.
So how’s that for a game plan? When most of us get into this business, we mistakenly believe that we will write a Masterpiece, lay it on the front doorstop and people would fall all over themselves to get it. Ah, if only it was that easy.
Yeah, the marketing end is a big pain in the ass, but getting a good marketing plan will help.
There was a woman in one of the writing groups who clearly wasn’t ready in her writing career, and it showed in her pitch session, and it was painful for all of us, because she would always leave the pitch session in a snot-streaming fit of tears, running for the bathroom, at which point, one or all of us would rush to comfort her. Again.
As hard as it is to hear, a “No thank you,” at a pitch session is not the end of your writing career, and it’s certainly not the end of your life. It means you’ve got more work to do. Either on your manuscript, on a new manuscript, or a new agent, or perhaps, all of the above. Write the best book you can, send it out there, and write another one. And another one.
And remember. The only difference between a published author and what Nora Robert’s once called herself “An Unpublished Nobody” is that one of them didn’t quit.